Archive for the ‘American Dreamz’ Category

Disappointing films of 2006

January 13, 2007

Popmatters has an interesting article on the most disappointing movies of 2006. I guess this would include movies that were just plain overhyped, which perhaps you can’t completely blame on the director and stars, but it’s still a disappointment.

Many of the movies listed there escaped my attention. I mean, I’ve heard of them, I just didn’t see them, although Superman Returns is right here on my desk. As for the ones I have seen (Borat, Snakes on a Plane, V for Vendetta), I wasn’t really disappointed in any of them. I loved Borat and I thought Snakes was perfectly cheesy. Vendetta was a LITTLE disappointing, but only because I thought it would be more of a social-revolution kind of movie, and it wasn’t. (I agree about Portman’s performance, though.)

For me, I thought the following 2006 films were disappointing: Nacho Libre, American Dreamz, The Departed. Yeah, that’s about it, I think. I thought Jack Black as a wrestler would be comedy gold, but the movie stunk – it was painful to watch. American Dreamz seemed like it should have had much more bite, but it mostly just bit.

And The Departed? Well, it’s on just about everyone’s Top 10 list, but I didn’t quite care for it. I thought Nicholson was hammy and that DiCaprio and Damon looked way too similar. The twist ending was telegraphed well in advance. Even Alec Baldwin didn’t make much sense – he seemed to be overacting. Martin Sheen was the best, though.

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286 – American Dreamz

November 9, 2006

In American Dreamz, the president (Dennis Quaid) lives in a virtual cocoon, knowing little of the outside world aside from what his trusted advisors tell him – and not really minding much, either. When he makes public appearances he wears a teeny tiny earbud through which his devilish chief of staff (Willem Dafoe) tells him precisely what to say. So it’s a make-believe story.

But the president, who just won re-election, is suffering from flagging poll numbers, so his lackeys book him as a guest judge on the nation’s number one television program, you guessed it, American Dreamz, which is pretty much a total ripoff of American Idol. Like I said, it’s a make-believe story.

Meanwhile, we get a look at some of the disparate contestants. Okay, just two, really, which means we’ll see them in the finals. Sally Kendoo (Mandy Moore) is midwest white trash (though her mom, expertly played by Jennifer Coolidge, insists otherwise) who’s the champeen karoke singer at the local bar, where she also waitresses. Omer Obeidi (Sam Golzari) is a terrorist with a conscience who’s been exported to the U.S. and has accidentally found himself a contestant on the show.

Hugh Grant seemed a bit miscast as the oily host of the show; this is the kind of role that Quaid might have taken 15 years ago, and Grant seemed a little too edgy and nasty. Sure, that’s out of character for him and his usual fawning, cute roles, but it’s called acting only if you do it well. A sneering Grant just doesn’t completely work; someone with more panache, verve, or any other funky adjective that Brits love to use. Grant’s normal charisma just wasn’t allowed to shine in this particular role, which held him back. (And hey, how come a Briton is hosting American Dreamz, anyway? Sure, Simon Cowell’s British, but he’s merely a judge, not The Man in Charge.)

Moore and Golzari are both very appealing, and Dafoe is excellent in the few scenes he’s in; in a bald wig he looks like he’s supposed to be Dick Cheney or Karl Rove, although the role is that of the president’s chief of staff. But quick, can you name either of President Bush’s chiefs of staff? I didn’t think so.

Chris Klein plays Moore’s on/off boyfriend; she dumps him early in the movie in a Star Is Born manner (she’s going up, he is not), but then they sort of reconcile in an effort to make her backstory more appealing to the American Dreamz judges. Klein appears to be channeling Keanu Reeves, although he leaves the “whoas” at home. In short, wooden. But that’s okay, because his character is supposed to be a bit of a dimbulb, anyway.

The movie is played for laughs, with dashes of seriousness creeping in from time to time, and although it doesn’t always hit its mark it’s sufficiently entertaining. The denoument might not be a huge surprise, but it’s not as if you’ll guess everything well in advance. I thought there was going to be more emphasis on the president angle, but most of the focus was on the two contestants and Grant’s Martin Tweed.

In short, not a bad way to spend an evening. Moore, in particular, is outstanding – and blonde, too, when did that happen? To be honest, she really makes the film come alive; otherwise it might just be a lame parody of current American politics and entertainment values.

**1/2